COVID CHRONICLES premiers!

Screen Shot 2020-10-26 at 4.35.32 PM

COVID CHRONICLES will launch the Pennsylvania State University Press’s new imprint, Graphic Mundi in early 2021. Edited by Kendra Boileau and Rich Johnson, the fund-raiser comics anthology will feature over 40 comic artist’s takes on life in the pandemic.

My contribution is a 5 page story, “Shelter-in Place Sing”, chronicling our neighborhood’s daily effort’s to establish community through singing. And response to Black Lives Matter.

Click on each image to enlarge.

DRAWING POWER wins an Eisner

IMG_3726

DRAWING POWER: WOMEN’S STORIES OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE, HARASSMENT, AND SURVIVAL from Abrams ComicArts has won an Eisner Ward for Best Anthology! Inspired by the global #MeToo movement, edited by Diane Noomin with an introduction from Roxane Gay, the book collects comics tales from more than 60 female artists.

My contribution was a 4 page story “Got Over It” below. Click on each image to enlarge.

Book Signing a Success!

IMG_0232

VERY successful book signing this weekend! Sold several copies of the Eisner Award-winning Complete Wimmen’s Comix, Eisner Award-nominee Pudge Girl Blimp, and Last Girl Standing.

Delicious reunion of ole farts…uh…still-producing artists: first row = Willy Mendes, Trina Robbins, Terre Richards second row = honorary muse Leslie Carbaga, Lee Marrs, Sharon Rudahl.

Special thx. to Bart’s Books and Terre, whose perseverance made it all possible.

All Aboard

Union Station was a dark, grandiose, Gothic, high vaulted ceiling, floor- tiled palace. The building said that going on the train was a significant, impressive event. Smoke billowed and loud train whistles blew.

Pop Hiebel, Dad’s partner in Pineview Manor, Home for Handicapped Children, had brought his car to join Mammaw’s Chevy in carting the 7 suitcases, 2 large trunks and 2 smaller trunks to the station. We were carrying not only clothes but housewares (including the iron skillets!).

At the station, an obliging porter piled all our baggage onto a railroad cart. Amazed at the volume, he kept shaking his head and saying “Uhmm um. Uhmm um.” We bought Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Daddies and M&Ms at the news stand. I had already secreted away a supply of lemon drops from Mammaw. The boys were so excited that I was sent to the restroom with them, but nobody had to pee. Frowning J.W. had his thumb in his mouth and was humming loudly in self-defense. He did that a lot anyway.

On the platform, Pop Hiebel removed his cigarette from his mouth and graciously doffed his hat to Mom. She leaned her face over for him to give her a kiss on the cheek. He said to take care and give his regards to Ted, tell him to try not to disable too many airmen. I registered that they were actually called “Guardsmen” but had learned long ago never to contradict Pop.

Mammaw hugged me tight and long. We were both crying. Mom pointed, “Get the boys!!” Bill & Dodson were chasing each other at the end of the platform, whooping it up. Definitely not the proper behavior in public. I raced down the way, grabbing both their hands. Jerking their arms up straight, I whispered “Behave, both of you! Remember what Mom said. No running. Stay with us! That goes for the whole trip.” Mom had spent most of breakfast laying out to them the Rules of the Road. Grinning, they both nodded, already Pavlovianly trained in call-and-response. I was to repeat this constantly for the next year – on French roadsides, in Swiss alps, Roman ruins, Pompeiian alleys. “No running! Stay with us!”

Mom and Mammaw were murmuring together, J.W. standing close to Mom, like a wary puppy. Bampaw did his version of you-boys-obey-your-mother to Bill and Dodson. He then turned to the conductor, who looked ready to call all aboard. Bampaw pulled out a fiver and gestured to Mom, saying that this lady was his little girl and these hooligans were his treasured grandbabies. So he’d appreciate it if they were taken good care of. The conductor nodded solemnly, touched his cap, took the bill and “Yassuh.”

He then stood tall and called out “ALLL ABOOOARD!” We did a last round of hugs and scrambled on the train. In the car, the porter reversed one seat by releasing a catch and flipping the back of that seat over. Now the two seats faced each other. He smiled at Mom. “So you can keep better track of yore chillren.” Mom smiled in response and thanked him.

I took a window seat and pulled the window down. At this early hour, there were only a few people waiting to see the passengers off. Most all the folks were on the train. Mammaw and Bampaw were standing close together. They were accustomed to my Uncle Luther’s travels, he was in the Navy. But indeed Mom was their baby girl. They had argued with her long & hard about how crazy this trip was: pulling the children out of school, Ted was only going to be gone another 7 months, it was illegal, there was no place for us to live on the base, etc. etc.

But Mom was stubborn as the day is long. This was their ONE chance to see Europe! This was an adventure she was not going to miss. She just shook her head and said that she was going, come hell or high water (we experienced both in France). Bampaw finally had agreed to watch over our house, the renters and our cars.

Thin, dapper Bampaw put his arm around wide Mammaw’s shoulders. As the train began to ease out of the station, he lifted his hat high. Mammaw began waving her lace handkerchief. All of us on the train waved back, then Mom and the brothers settled into their seats. I continued to wave. They got smaller and smaller but continued to wave until the train went around the bend.

That was the last time I saw Mammaw. By spring the 6 of us were living in a 4 person trailer behind the squadron hospital at Dreux AFB, France. On Feb. 14th during a Jackson Hospital stay, Mammaw died. Now, many decades later, the taste of her fried chicken comes back to me.

You can hear the whistle blowin’

suitcases

It was past midnight. Usually, I would be the only one awake – either secretly reading under the covers with a flashlight or writing in my diary. But we were staying overnight with my grandparents, Mammaw & Bampaw.

All the grownups (at 16, I considered myself one) were awake. Mammaw was in the kitchen finishing up her stellar fried chicken. She dabbed constantly at her eyes, while sniffing. The whole house smelled wonderfully of  fried chicken. She would then pack the chicken into shoeboxes lined with wax paper, filled with cornbread, potato salad and small plastic forks wrapped in paper napkins. This dreamy combo had always accompanied us on our trips.

Smoke rising around his head like in ‘40s movies, Bampaw was laying out endless games of solitaire on the breakfast room table, a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. He called out annoying questions to Mom, packing and repacking our luggage. Mom’s hair was up in rollers, her glasses were perched on her nose. She was muttering to herself, imitating the voices under her breath of Bampaw and of our garage mechanic who had suggested strongly we sell the second hand Cadillacs that now were parked outside.

It was November 1961. Next day – actually later today because it was after midnight – we were leaving for France. We were joining Dad, already there with the Alabama National Guard.

Mom had tried to accomplish more things on The Last Day than she could. She wanted to get the oil changed in both cars, the ’49 black Cadillac and the ‘52 white Cadillac, before we left. Her charming Southern Belle routine hid a practical mind like a steel trap that stalled when confronted with ‘60s male prejudice. Which, tonight, was the voice of the mechanic and her father.

In our household, Mom took care of the major house repairs, car maintenance, some yard maintenance, and finances – trained by Bampaw as a bookkeeper. She also typed Dad’s speeches and reports to medical journals. She had typed up a list of every thing that needed to be done before we left. It was 4 pages long, single spaced. At 6pm tonight, Bampaw was tired of hearing her say how “we hadn’t done X and hadn’t done Y”, so he ripped up the list.

Beside Mom, I was charged with packing the brothers’ toys and one fourth of my art supplies that I was allowed to transport to France. Mammaw had found me some rubber bands to put around my box of colored pencils. The damned Tinkertoys came in a large cardboard cylinder that was impossibly awkward to fit. I tried sitting on the trunk – success!

It was cold. There were slight breezes drifting through the old house. I felt that this was home. Mom and I had lived with my grandparents until I was 6 and Mom married my pediatrician, Dr. Ted Marrs.

Mammaw & Bampaw’s house was cozy and familiar. I knew every creak in every floorboard. The different smell of each room: talcum powder and Old Spice in Mammaw & Bampaw’s room, Jergen’s Lotion and Shalimar in the middle bedroom, Pledge and tobacco in the living room, mothballs and dust in the back bedroom. In the fall and winter the floor furnace chugged and wheezed, occasionally giving out a low moan. When I was small, Bampaw had gleefully scared me to death with tales of the furnace’s evil snatching of small children down to its dark depths. We were hearing it now, not turned off by Bampaw as he went to bed, but keeping us company.

The Marrs family lived across town in a series of rambling houses that were often under partial construction as the parents added another room – perennially. I came back to Mammaw & Bampaw’s to spend the night almost every other Friday, a pattern that kept me from fratricide, probably contributed to the actual existence of 3 younger brothers.

At ages 7 and 9, two of my brothers were rowdy, curious handfuls. Mom reasoned that if they were allowed to run around willy-nilly today then they would sleep straight through the night. Be not so much trouble on the train later today. Bampaw and I rolled eyes at this opinion. They were ALWAYS trouble. Cute as buttons when sleepy or asleep, they engineered countless escapades with PlayDoh, laundry piles or BandAids.

Over the course of an afternoon, they had managed to acquire several layers of leaves, mud, cobwebs, tar and even tiny stones. I was instructed to “supervise” their baths. I had to let out the bathwater and filled up the tub twice before the process was completed. I found one of Bampaw’s golf tees in Dodson’s ear. “THERE it is!” he crowed delightedly.

Mammaw dried one boy off and Bill dried himself with a few finishing touches by me.. Both had big brown eyes and wide, ready smiles. Dodson had straight blonde hair with many cowlicks, naturally falling into spikes that later on would be considered a boss punk style. His skin was a golden color, summer or winter. Bill had curly curly curly brown hair and eyelashes any woman would kill for. Already girls were swarming around. Bill habitually would try ANYTHING he thought to do: climb up on car hoods and jump off, climb up on fences and jump off, climb up on sheds and jump off, climb up trees and get stuck, scoot into culverts and get stuck, scoot into heating ducts and get stuck, etc.

A couple of years before, looking out the window, Mom noticed Bill walking home from school with a strange girl. Dalraida Elementary was only 2 blocks from our current house. The little girl was strolling beside him, obviously carrying both of their books and his jacket. As Mom met them at the door, the little girl introduced herself (the South, you know). Mom pointed to the girl’s load. Turning to Bill, she said “ What IS this, young man?” Bill smiled and shrugged. “She wanted to.” Bill did a lot of smiling and shrugging. He had once brought home 21 valentines … and there were only 12 girls in his class.

James Webb (J.W.- pronounced “Jay Dubyah”, Jim Dandy, James Grump) was already asleep in Mom’s bed. He’d just had his birthday. At age 2 he was a quiet boy, habitually humming or softly singing himself to sleep. Thank God. Brown-haired like 2 of his siblings, he had startling blue eyes and a slow sweet smile. He was the only truly nice kid Mom had. Until he became a teenager. But that’s another story.

I was the only girl, the oldest. I had been spoiled rotten before Mom married Dr. Marrs. Living with my grandparents and Mom, the only child of an extended family that reached across Alabama, I had had it made. I loved the company of adults, amazed them with my smartass comments. My art skill from age 2 amazed and distressed all my relatives. (“That looks just like you, Sam!” “Is my nose THAT big? Dammit!”)

Mammaw had spent the whole day with a clenched jaw. I kept hugging her, we’d both cry a little. We had moved away twice before – once to Florida and then to Texas. But this seemed a long long way away. I had never known her to stay up this late. I said I would write her every week (I did).

Mom and I cleared off the bed and dragged the luggage to the side door. We didn’t have to worry about getting up in time. Bampaw got up at 4:30am every morning. When I’d brushed my teeth and taken a leak, I came back to the middle bedroom. Mom was pulling the torn pieces of her list out of the trash. She looked up and muttered “Why does everything have to be SO hard?”